Previous Blogs

November 17, 2020
Microsoft and Chip Partners Help Secure Future PCs with Pluton Processor

November 10, 2020
MediaTek Driving New Low-Cost Options for 5G and Chromebooks

October 27, 2020
Sony Highlights Remote Technologies for Creators

October 21, 2020
Dell Technologies Embraces “As-A-Service” Models with Project Apex

October 13, 2020
PC Growth and Evolution Continues to Impress

October 6, 2020
Google Workspace Reflects Changing Nature of Productivity

September 22, 2020
Microsoft Highlights Future of Work with Teams Updates

September 14, 2020
Nvidia Purchase of Arm Completely Resets Semiconductor Landscape

September 1, 2020
Nvidia Pushes Ray-Traced Gaming Ahead with 3000 Series GPUs

August 25, 2020
Pending Fall Tech Releases Bring Excitement and Hope for Normalcy

August 18, 2020
Intel Chip Advancements Show They’re Up for a Competitive Challenge

August 11, 2020
New 5G Opportunities Coming with Mid-Band Radio Frequencies

July 28, 2020
The Shifting Semiconductor Sands

July 21, 2020
Microsoft and Partners Bring More Hyperconverged Hybrid Cloud Options to Azure

July 14, 2020
New Study Highlights Pandemic-Driven Shifts in IT Priorities

July 7, 2020
Nvidia Virtual GPU Update Brings Remote Desktops, Workstations and VR to Life

June 30, 2020
Power Efficient Computing Noteworthy During Pandemic

June 23, 2020
Apple Transition Provides Huge Boost for Arm

June 16, 2020
Cisco Highlights Focus on Location as Companies Start to Reopen

June 9, 2020
WiFi 6E Opens New Possibilities for Fast Wireless Connectivity

May 26, 2020
Arm Doubles Down on AI for Mobile Devices

May 19, 2020
Microsoft Project Reunion Widens Windows 10 Opportunity to One Billion Devices

May 12, 2020
New Workplace Realities Highlight Opportunity for Cloud-Based Apps and Devices

May 5, 2020
HP’s New Chromebooks, Thin Clients and Gaming Machines Highlight PC Evolution

April 28, 2020
Google Anthos Extending Cloud Reach with Cisco, Amazon and Microsoft Connections

April 21, 2020
Remote Access Solutions Getting Extended and Expanded

April 14, 2020
Apple Google Contact Tracing Effort Raises Fascinating New Questions

April 7, 2020
Need for Multiple Video Platforms Becoming Apparent

March 31, 2020
Microsoft 365 Shift Demonstrates Evolution of Cloud-Based Services

March 24, 2020
The Time for Pragmatism in Tech is Now

March 17, 2020
The Value of Contingencies and Remote Collaboration

March 10, 2020
AMD Highlights Path to the Future

March 3, 2020
Coronavirus-Induced Pause Gives Tech Industry Opportunity to Reflect

February 25, 2020
Intel Focuses on 5G Infrastructure

February 18, 2020
Apple Coronavirus Warnings Highlight Complexities of Tech Supply Chains

February 11, 2020
Arm Brings AI and Machine Learning to IoT and the Edge

February 4, 2020
Nvidia Opens Next Chapter of Cloud Gaming

January 21, 2020
Cloud Workload Variations Highlight Diversity of Cloud Computing

January 14, 2020
New Research Shows It’s a Hybrid and Multi-Cloud World

January 7, 2020
It’s 2020 and PCs are Alive and Kicking

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TECHnalysis Research Blog

December 1, 2020
Qualcomm Pushes Mobility Forward with Snapdragon 888

By Bob O'Donnell

For any company that has built an annual cadence of upgrades, it can be tough to create a sense of surprise when the latest generation of products is unveiled. After all, everybody knows something is coming, and whatever it is, it’s going be better and faster than what came before it.

Such was the case for 5G pioneer Qualcomm as it introduced the latest iteration of its Snapdragon line of SOCs—chips that power the latest generation smartphones and, increasingly, other types of devices. This year, of course, the company faced the additional challenge of doing so in the age of virtual events, instead of in the always enjoyable environs of Maui, Hawaii, where they typically do the unveiling.

Yet even with these burdens, the company managed to pleasantly surprise on many fronts. From sending event attendees beautifully curated care packages that attempted to bring some of the Hawaiian spirit home, to a seemingly out-of-order product numbering change that clearly implies something new is afoot, Qualcomm has managed to turn the debut of its new premium Snapdragon 888 SOC into, well, a bit of a surprise.

The most significant reason for the surprise is the technology the company managed to incorporate in this new chip. In several different areas, Qualcomm took significant leaps forward—enough for them to feel that they could not only skip the expected 875 name (the last three chips were 845, 855, and last year’s 865), but they also jumped past 885 straight to 888. (Of course, it probably doesn’t hurt that 888 is considered a lucky number in many Asian cultures, where Qualcomm does a great deal of business.)

Regardless, the 888 has the feel of a part that can serve as a significant step forward for smartphones as well as other intelligent mobile devices. Notably, it marks the return of a fully integrated 5G modem and RF front end (the X60), after the company chose to decouple the X55 modem from last year’s Snapdragon 865. By building the modem into the 888, Qualcomm makes it easier for device makers to design products around the chip and ensures that every device built around the 888 can get the same level of 5G performance.

That’s particularly important because the X60 offers some critical improvements over Qualcomm’s earlier 5G modems. For example, the X60 supports several variants on carrier aggregation with 5G NR signals—where multiple wireless connection channels on different frequencies can be combined together to create a broader “pipe”—that have important real-world value. Specifically, the X60 is the first Qualcomm modem that can aggregate low-band FDD radio spectrum with mid-band TDD, which is exactly the combination that T-Mobile needs to be able to leverage the combination of its 600 MHz low-band 5G with its 2.5 GHz mid-band 5G. In real-world tests, that combination has been able to deliver nearly mmWave-type speeds (over 900 Mbps) but with the significantly broader-coverage of sub-6 5G. Phones based on the 888 will be the first Snapdragon-powered phones that can take advantage of this capability as T-Mobile continues to roll out this type of combined service across its network.

The X60 also has the ability to aggregate sub-6 signals with mmWave ones, which could prove to be important for both Verizon and AT&T, as they build out their respective networks using the spectrum assets they own. The bottom line is that the X60 is the first modem to really deliver all the critical capabilities that carriers need to build out faster and more robust 5G networks.

In addition, thanks to a newly designed Hexagon processor that’s built into the 888 and the 6th generation Qualcomm AI Engine, Qualcomm claims the new chip has AI-related performance capabilities that are nearly twice as fast as its predecessor (26 TOPs, or trillions of operations per second, compared to 15 for the 865). As developers start to take better advantage of AI-related software tools, these AI-focused hardware resources are going to be increasingly important.

Photography and visual recognition, of course, continue to be critical applications for smartphones and the 888 moves these areas forward with the latest generation Spectra ISP (Image Signal Processor) that’s integrated into the chip. Notably, the new version offers support for both higher resolution imaging and significantly faster image capture rates, opening up the possibility not only for just better-looking pictures and video, but different ways of capturing and processing images.

The 888 also includes the latest version of the Adreno GPU, which can help with image processing-related tasks, as well as gaming performance improvements. In fact, Qualcomm claims that the 888 has the largest GPU performance improvement that the Snapdragon line of SOCs has ever had, which should lead to significantly improved 5G-enabled cloud-based mobile gaming.

All told, the 888 looks to justify its far-reaching name with an impressive set of new capabilities that should be able to start delivering on the full capabilities of a 5G-powered, AI-enabled world that we’ve long been promised. From a technology perspective, at least, it certainly looks like 2021 is going to be off to a good start.

Here’s a link to the original column:

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

Leveraging more than 10 years of award-winning, professional radio experience, TECHnalysis Research participates in a video-based podcast called Everything Technology.
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